Autonomous Collision-Free Navigation of Microvehicles in Complex and Dynamically Changing Environments

Self-propelled micro- and nanoscale robots represent a rapidly emerging and fascinating robotics research area. However, designing autonomous and adaptive control systems for operating micro/nanorobotics in complex and dynamically changing environments, which is a highly demanding feature, is still an unmet challenge. Here we describe a smart microvehicle for precise autonomous navigation in complicated environments and traffic scenarios. The fully autonomous navigation system of the smart microvehicle is composed of a microscope-coupled CCD camera, an artificial intelligence planner, and a magnetic field generator. The microscope-coupled CCD camera provides real-time localization of the chemically powered Janus microsphere vehicle and environmental detection for path planning to generate optimal collision-free routes, while the moving direction of the microrobot toward a reference position is determined by the external electromagnetic torque. Real-time object detection offers adaptive path planning in response to dynamically changing environments. We demonstrate that the autonomous navigation system can guide the vehicle movement in complex patterns, in the presence of dynamically changing obstacles, and in complex biological environments. Such a navigation system for micro/nanoscale vehicles, relying on vision-based close-loop control and path planning, is highly promising for their autonomous operation in complex dynamic settings and unpredictable scenarios expected in a variety of realistic nanoscale scenarios.